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Morning Jay: NRSC Backs O'Donnell, House Polls, Gene Taylor Strikes Again, and More!

6:30 AM, Sep 16, 2010 • By JAY COST
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1. NRSC To Back O’Donnell?  That was the story yesterday morning. So says NRSC chairman John Cornyn:

Let there be no mistake: The National Republican Senatorial Committee – and I personally as the committee’s chairman – strongly stand by all of our Republican nominees, including Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.

I reached out to Christine this morning, and as I have conveyed to all of our nominees, I offered her my personal congratulations and let her know that she has our support. This support includes a check for $42,000 – the maximum allowable donation that we have provided to all of our nominees – which the NRSC will send to her campaign today.

So, is the NRSC “all in?”  Not necessarily.  There are four ways that party committees can contribute to candidates.  The first is what Cornyn has offered, a direct contribution, i.e. a cash transfer from the NRSC to the O’Donnell campaign.

The second is what’s known as a “coordinated expenditure,” wherein the party committee and the candidate split the cost for a campaign item.  The Federal Elections Comission sets limits on how much the party can give a Senate candidate, and that depends on the state's population. (According to my back of the envelope calculations, it works out to be about $87,000 for a candidate from Delaware.)

The third is a transfer to the state party committee, which would retain the discretion over how the money would be spent, but the candidate would presumably benefit indirectly.  This is usually more the domain of the Republican National Committee.

The fourth is an “independent expenditure.”  IEs are unlimited, but they carry the strict requirement that the candidate can have no input in how the money is spent.  That means the final decision on these sorts of expenditures would not even really be left up to Cornyn, who is knee-deep in candidate campaigns and is thus not actually “independent.”  These are where the big bucks come in, and the independent expenditure arm of the NRSC will be brutal in its calculations, but its brutality will be strictly data-based.  It’s not an issue of insurgent v. establishment.  If the independent expenditure arm of the NRSC thinks its marginal dollar will make the most difference in Delaware, that dollar will go to...where?  Delaware!

2. Independent Expenditures BeginCourtesy of Hotline OnCall, we have the list of the first districts where the DCCC and NRCC are putting their dollars. 

The DSCC is putting money into HI-1 (held by Republican Charles Djou), MI-1 (open, formerly held by Bart Stupak), and AL-2 (held by Democrat Bobby Bright). 

Meanwhile, the GOP is buying in 10 Democratic-held districts, AZ-1 (Ann Kirkpatrick), CA-11 (Jerry McNerney), FL-2 (Allen Boyd), IN-2 (Joe Donnelly), MS-01 (Travis Childers), TN-8 (open), TX-17 (Chet Edwards), VA-5 (Tom Perriello), and WI-7 (open).

Initial reaction: no surprises here.  It’s interesting that Joe Donnelly in IN-2 earned the largest buy from the NRCC, $135,000. I’ll keep you posted on notable ad buys in other districts as they are made known.

3. House Polls.  Yesterday, SurveyUSA released a poll of CA-20, a Central Valley district that includes Bakersfield and parts of Fresno.  The firm found three-term incumbent Democrat Jim Costa leading Republican challenger Andy Vidak by just two points, 48-46.  Vidak leads Costa among independents, 49-40, and there are plenty of them still undecided.  The district gave Barack Obama 60 percent of their vote in 2008, and John Kerry beat George W. Bush here, 51-48.  In a “wave” year, this is the kind of district you’ll see the Democrats struggling to hold.  Costa is currently underperforming Obama by 12 points; translate that nationwide, and it helps explain why the Democrats are in such danger of losing the House.

SurveyUSA also polled neighboring CA-19, which is open now that Republican George Radanovich is retiring, and finds Republican state senator Jeff Denham easily beating physician Loraine Goodwin 63-30. Obama carried 46 percent of the vote here, which means Goodwin is underperforming by about 16 points.  Again, that is consistent with what we are seeing nationwide.

Observation: This year, the SurveyUSA polls have been pretty bad for Democrats. 

Meanwhile, a DailyKos poll conducted by PPP from earlier in the week found Democratic incumbent John Hall trailing Republican challenger Nan Hayworth, 42-44, in NY-19, an upstate district that the Democrats took from the GOP in 2006 and that went for Obama over McCain, 51-48.  The poll finds the president’s job approval at -17 in this district.  Kirsten Gillibrand's approval stands at -20.  Yikes.  Gillibrand’s Senate race could very well be the sleeper this cycle.

Finally, We Ask America recently released an August survey of registered voters in MO-4, where veteran Democrat Ike Skelton is in the race of his life against Vicky Hartzler.  According to the poll, the Democrat has a bare lead, 45-42, while Hartzler has a modest lead among independents, who are the largest percentage of uncertain voters.  This is a central-west Missouri district that includes Jefferson City, and it gave John McCain 60 percent of the vote.

4. Gene Taylor Favors Repeal of ObamacareThis is interesting, from the Hill:

A Democratic lawmaker signed onto a Republican petition to repeal healthcare reform.

Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) signed onto a discharge petition drafted by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Taylor's office confirmed. His office would not offer any additional comment.
Taylor is the first Democrat to sign onto the petition, a reflection of the tough electoral climate facing Democrats this fall, especially over healthcare reform.

“Adding Rep. Taylor to the discharge petition is a significant step towards repealing Obamacare,” said King. “Rep. Taylor is the first Democrat to sign the discharge petition, and it is my hope that his decision will pave the way for other Democrats who support repeal to break ranks with Speaker Pelosi and President Obama.”

Taylor had voted against the bill on final passage, along with 34 other Democrats.

I find Gene Taylor to be the most fascinating member of the United States Congress.  He’s a Democrat from an era long gone by, one in which there was a sizeable conservative Southern faction. 

I’m not surprised he added his name to this discharge petition – not just because he was a “hard no” against Obamacare, but also because his district, in the southeast corner of the state, is one of the most conservative in the whole country, giving John McCain a whopping 67 percent of its vote in 2008.  It is essentially the same district that elected Trent Lott all the way back in 1972.  And yet Taylor has been in Congress since 1989, in large part because of signals like these.

Memo to liberal Democrats: Gene Taylor is the reason you don’t want a one-seat majority.  He’ll hold the balance of power in such a situation, and he is closer to John Boehner than Nancy Pelosi.  That’s how he has managed to hold on in southeastern Mississippi for so many years. 

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